The L-1 visa includes a temporary work and residence permit for the United States. This work visa category enables the internal transfer of employees within a group of companies from the current foreign location to a US location.

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What is the L visa?

L-1 visas are often applied for as intra-corporate transfer visas in the context of classic assignments of employees within a group of companies, but can also be used, for example, for longer project and assembly assignments at the U.S. location or with U.S. customers.

Requirements for the L-1 visa

The L-1 visa is company-specific, i.e. the U.S. company officially submits the application for future employees. Proof of the existence of a U.S. location within a group of companies is therefore an indispensable prerequisite. The U.S. company must already have been active in the market for at least one year ("doing business"). U.S. locations that have been operational for less than one year may qualify as L-1 applicants under separate provisions ("L-1 New Office").

With this visa, the foreign person can only work for the U.S. company that submitted the application. The only exception is the so-called "Off-site Employment" which permits the deployment of employees to customers under certain conditions.

Evidence must be provided that a qualifying link exists between the foreign location where the employees are currently employed and the U.S. location (as the "receiving" corporate entity), as L-1 visas relate to intra-company transfers of employees.


Consequently, both companies must be linked by majority ownership. This can be demonstrated as follows:

  • the foreign parent company holds at least 50% of the shares in the US subsidiary or vice versa
  • both business units are sister companies and are each held at least 50% by the same parent company
  • a US company maintains a permanent establishment abroad or vice versa

This list is not exhaustive and other constellations are conceivable.

Employees who are to receive the L-1 visa must also have been employed (continuously) for at least 12 months within the last three years at a location of the group of companies (outside the USA). This must have been a regular employment relationship. Freelancers or consultants do not qualify for this category. The legislator further assumes that the position offered in the USA is also a regular contractual employment relationship ("regular employment").

During the minimum one-year employment phase in the foreign company, employees must have worked as a manager, executive or specialist:in and also hold a position as a manager, executive or specialist:in at the future US location. The US authorities distinguish between the L-1A visa for managers / executives and the L-1B visa for specialists:in. L-1B applications in particular are processed by the responsible US authorities rigorously reviewed.

Employees who receive an L-1 visa can either continue to be paid by the foreign company or by the U.S. location. A local U.S. employment contract or a U.S. assignment contract is not mandatory, but possible. Foreign employment contracts may also continue for the work assignment.

L-1 visa application

L-1 petitions are filed by mail at the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service center in the United States. This petition includes extensive documentation

  • to the US company,
  • the foreign company location or group of companies and
  • Evidence of qualification and
  • to the current and future activities of the employees.

Upon approval of the L-1 petition, the U.S. company will receive an approval letter (I-797, Approval Notice) of the USCIS by mail.

In the final step, prospective employees must go through the consular process in which the actual L-1 visa is issued (exceptions are only status extension or change of status procedures within the U.S.). The application is usually made during a personal interview at the responsible U.S. consulate in the home country.

Companies that meet certain access requirements can obtain a so-called L-Blanket registration for the group of companies and thereby apply for L Blanket visas in a simplified procedure for their employees.

How long is the L-1 visa valid?

L-1A visas for managers / executives can be applied for in the initial application for a maximum of three years and can be extended in 2-year increments up to a maximum of seven years.

L-1B visas for specialists can be approved for a maximum of three years in the initial application process, but only one renewal application for two additional years to a maximum of five years is possible.

Companies that have demonstrably been operating in the US market for less than one year can apply for an L-1A or L-1B new office visa for employees who are to set up the US location, but the initial application is only approved for a maximum of one year. However, extension applications for up to a maximum of five (L-1B) or seven years (L-1A) are possible afterwards.

Visas for family members

Accompanying spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for a derivative L-2 visa upon application for the same period as the principal applicant. If the children reach the US age of majority (21), they must change their nonimmigrant status or leave the country.

Spouses can apply for their own general work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) or L-2 status at the border and are not tied to a specific US company.

Spouses and children may attend private and public educational institutions with the L-2 visa.

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The most frequently asked questions about the L-1 visa

The fees for applying for a visa vary considerably depending on the category and may regularly increase or decrease, also as a result of exchange rate fluctuations. Therefore, every applicant should inform himself about the current fees before applying.

The application for a U.S. visa must be made through the official U.S. authorities, e.g. the U.S. consulates and U.S. embassies. The actual visa application is placed online, but almost every applicant must go to the consulate in person for a visa interview. With some work visas, it is sometimes necessary to send extensive files by mail to the U.S. authorities in the USA prior to the consular application procedure.
We advise and support companies and private individuals in all matters relating to visa applications. Read more about the requirements, duration and costs of a visa application

A U.S. work visa is always tied to a specific U.S. company. In turn this means that you must have a specific employer in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.

The application process begins with the U.S. company that wants to hire you. The U.S. employer submits the petition either to the USCIS or to the responsible U.S. consulate. Since the application for a temporary work permit is made by the company for a future foreign employee, the U.S. employer is therefore the so-called petitioner, which means the official applicant. The future employee is the entitled person and thus the so-called beneficiary.

Many companies wonder what happens to the company-bound work visa when the visa holder no longer works for the U.S. employer.

In the event that the employment contract is terminated, the U.S. work visa automatically loses its validity. The derived visas of any family members who may have travelled with the employee also lose their validity upon termination of the work relations, as these are linked to the visa of the main visa applicant.

This means that the former visa holder is no longer allowed to enter the country with the work visa after termination of the employment relationship. Even if the work visa is theoretically still valid for a certain period of time, the visa may no longer be used to enter the United States. If the visa holder concerned wishes to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes in the future, he / she must reapply for an ESTA or a corresponding visa, depending on the type of activities carried out on site and the duration of such activities.

Tip: In order to avoid discrepancies or problems with later entries, it is advisable to inform the U.S. consulate about the new work situation. For this purpose, it is sufficient if the responsible company representative (e.g. HR manager, supervisor, board of directors) sends an e-mail to the responsible consulate with the request to invalidate the visa of the former employee. If possible, a copy of the visa should also be attached. The consulate will then put a note in the system so that the CBP officers at the U.S. border are also informed.
In some cases, the visa holder will even be contacted directly by the U.S. consulate in order to send its passport with the work visa for the purpose of invalidation. In other cases, the visa will simply be invalidated by the CBP officer at the boder the next time he or she enters the United States.

Our recommendation: By sending a short message to the responsible U.S. consulate, companies can protect themselves and above all be sure that entry with the previously valid work visa is no longer possible. Do not take any risks and prevent possible abuse with company-bound visas.

Depending on the visa type, the application is made through the U.S. consulates in the home country or additionally through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In Germany, for example, you can apply at the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main or Munich.

IMPORTANT: Since 2001, all applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 have been required to appear in person without exception. This means that all visa applicants of this age must submit their application at a personal interview at the U.S. consulate. No documents are submitted in advance by mail (exception: age groups under 14 and over 79, here the application is submitted by mail). Another exception at present is theVisa Reissuance Program.

All applicants of a Nonimmigrant visa must be in addition to the Online application DS-160a visa profile on the website of the Visa Information Servicecreate for the purpose of making an appointment and paying the visa processing fee.

In the first step you make the payment of the visa fee (please note that the application fee is not refundable if your visa is rejected). The fee can be paid by online bank transfer, SOFORT transfer (electronic funds transfer), debit card or cash at a bank. Usually you will receive an email notification that the payment has been received and your account has been activated so that the appointment can be made.

The interview appointment must be made either online via the visa profile or by calling the U.S. consulate call center at +49 (0)322 2109 3243. If you make the appointment online via your Visa Profile, you will have the opportunity to view the available appointments at the U.S. consulates in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main and Munich in a calendar. You will then receive an "Appointment Confirmation", i.e. an appointment confirmation including proof of payment of the visa application fee. Appointment postponements or cancellations are possible. However, if you postpone your appointment more than twice, you will have to go through the whole process from the beginning and pay the visa fee again. On our website you can find the current visa fees.

Depending on the type of visa, a certain application fee is charged per applicant, which is not refundable even if the visa is rejected.

Please make every effort to schedule an appointment in a timely manner. U.S. officials cannot and will not make allowances for individual travel plans.

Basically, in addition to the common DS-160 application form, applicants must have and the "Appointment Confirmation" you have to submit further documents. What these are also depends on the visa applied for.

Please note that your passport will be retained at the U.S. Consulate on the day of the interview and will be delivered by registered mail to a German address after a processing time of approximately one to two weeks. A personal pickup of the visa or an issuance on the same day are not possible!

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 will be issued a derived J-2 visa for the same period as the principal applicant and may travel to the United States on that visa.

As a rule, work visas for the United States cannot be applied for without a concrete US job offer. The official petitioner ("Petitioner") is the US company of the group of companies for the future employee ("Beneficiary"). An independent petition by the foreign employee is not possible. The L-1 visa application process involves at least two entities of the corporate group - the foreign employer, as well as the U.S. location.

As with all other U.S. work visas, the L-1 category is subject to strict eligibility requirements. To comply with the law, the foreign employee assigned to the U.S. location must be able to provide the following evidence:

  1. The employee must have been regularly employed by the group of companies outside the U.S. for at least one year within the three years preceding the application. Consulting or freelance contracts are not permitted.
    NOTICE: Business (longer) periods of stay in the U.S. are deducted from the one-year employment period (for example, under B-1 status)!
  2. Only those employees qualify for an L-1 visa who have been or will be employed as a manager, executive or specialist at the company location during the minimum one-year employment period and will also be employed as a manager, executive or specialist at the future U.S. location.
  • Executives: Managers who provide strategic planning, organization, control and direction for the company or a key business unit with personnel responsibility. The focus is on leadership competence (e.g. CEO, CFO, President, Vice President).
  • Manager: Person who directs the daily organizational tasks, of a department or the functioning of the organization ("day-by-day operations"). Personnel responsibility is usually a given, but not a mandatory requirement. The focus is on organizational and management skills (e.g. Project Manager, Sales Manager, Marketing Manager).
  • Specialist: Employee who has special and comprehensive knowledge of internal company products, processes, techniques and procedures. The specialist knowledge may not be generally available on the labor market.

Since L-1 Visa refers to an employee transfer, it must be proven that there is a qualifying connection between the foreign location where the employee is currently employed and the U.S. location (as the "receiving" corporate entity).

Both the U.S. company and the foreign company must be majority-owned. Alternatively, evidence can be provided that control of both companies is in the hands of the same person - natural or legal. Incidentally, it does not matter where the parent company is located (U.S. or foreign).

Examples of a "qualifying relationship" include:

  • Transfer from parent company to subsidiary
  • Transfer from subsidiary to parent company
  • Transfer between two sister companies

Other constellations are also conceivable.

The U.S. company must be proven to have already been actively operating in the U.S. market for at least 1 year ("doing business"). Exception:L-1 "New Office.

The legislation distinguishes between L-1A visa petitions for managers/executives and L-1B visa petitions for specialists.

The category is based on the employee's future job at the U.S. location (not current job).

The boundaries between the individual categories may well be fluid. It must be decided on a case-by-case basis under which category the L-1 transfer should take place. L-1B applications are generally subject to a stricter review.

The maximum stay under L-1A status is up to 7 years, L-1B visa holders can stay in the U.S. up to a maximum of 5 years.

The category also allows the transfer of personnel to a "newly opened" US location (not yet operating in the US market for 1 year). In this case, the US authorities require additional information beyond the usual L requirements. For example, proof of the purchase or lease of office space, the special skills of the applicant in the start-up process, the economic situation of the parent company, and suitable business plans for the US venture. In particular, future U.S. personnel policies are of interest to U.S. officials.

L-1 "New Office" applications are approved for a maximum of 1 year in the initial application, but may then be extended up to a maximum of five (L-1B) or seven (L-1A) years.

For internationally active companies with a high rate of assignments to the USA, the complex L-Visa application process represents a not inconsiderable time and cost factor.

However, U.S. regulations provide for the possibility of a significant simplification of the entire process for large corporations - the so-called L-Blanket Petition.

If a regular L-Visa application must always be submitted in advance via the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USCIS), this step is omitted in the L-Blanket process. This means that the L-Blanket application can be submitted by the employee directly at an interview appointment at the domestic US consulate.

This has two decisive advantages:

On the one hand, the high application fees of the USCIS, as well as translation costs and the time-consuming compilation of company documents are eliminated. On the other hand, the simplification procedure allows employees to be deployed at shorter notice.

However, the L-Blanket is only available to companies that can meet the following requirements:

  • The group of companies must have at least three international locations (at least one of which must be in the USA). It does not matter where the headquarters are located.
  • The company must be engaged in commercial trade or otherwise provide commercial services.
  • The U.S. company must have been in existence or doing business for at least one year.

In addition, the U.S. company must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • US workforce of at least 1,000 employees
  • Approval of more than 10 (regular) L-Visa applications within the last 12 months
  • Annual sales of at least $25 million (of all U.S. locations)

To the extent that the Group can meet these items, an approval process for use on L-Blanket will occur with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Based on an L-Blanket registration of the group of companies (issued by the USCIS), all locations worldwide listed in the Blanket can use the simplified application process for employees.

The initial approval period for L-1A and L-1B visas is as follows maximum three years. Exception: employee assignment in a newly established U.S. location - in this case, only a one-year period of stay is approved in the initial application.

Extensions (upon application) are possible in 2-year increments.

L-1A visa holders can be deployed to the U.S. for up to a maximum total of seven years (by renewing twice).

Employees under L-1B status, however, only to a maximum of five years.

IMPORTANT: If a person has exhausted the maximum allowable length of stay (i.e., five or seven years) in the U.S. as an L-1 transferee, no further extension may be applied for. Entry into the United States on the basis of a new H or L status is not possible until the person has lived outside the U.S. for at least one full year.

A change to the E-1 or E-2Category, however, is possible without waiting.

As a rule, applicants find out on the day of their interview whether the visa will be granted or not.
In certain cases, the visa applicant receives a letter of refusal from the consulate after a certain processing time. Incidentally, no reasons need to be given for a refusal. The reasons for this can be manifold and range - depending on the visa category - from the assumption of an immigration intention, to the presumption of illegal employment, to insufficient application documentation.
Once this has happened, a new visa can usually only be (successfully) applied for after several months or even years. Theoretically, there is no waiting period for the applicant until the next submission. However, experience shows that without a blatant improvement in the requirements of the respective visa category (e.g. proof of the intention to return to the home country, financial means, proof of specialized professional knowledge, etc.), a new application does not appear to make much sense.

For L-1 applications there is no limitation by the legislator - in contrast to the H-1B visa category. This means that an application can be filed at any time and there are always sufficient visas available.

Accompanying spouses and unmarried children up to 21 years of age are granted derivative status upon application, and thus an L-2 visa. Spouses entering the country with this visa can apply for a General Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) in the U.S. after having entered the country, apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and thus pursue employment in the U.S. independently of their spouse.

Children of L-1 holders may of course attend educational institutions (schools/universities), but may not engage in paid work.

It is not uncommon for employee assignments to have to be realized at quite short notice. Since the application for a work visa can unfortunately take several weeks, a temporary solution must often be realized.

Many companies therefore choose to inform the employee about theB-1 Visa Categoryto be sent in advance to the US location. It is important to emphasize that the B-1 Categorynonework permit for the USA. It only legitimizes the employee to, for example, coordination discussions, meetings or negotiations at the US location.

To the extent that the employee is already in the United States under a valid visa, then a change of status (without leaving the U.S.) to the L-1 category can theoretically be made.

It is not possible, however, to calculate on the basis of thevisa free entryto apply for a work permit. In addition, not all changes within different categories are accepted.

The application for change of status, if at all possible or appropriate, is filed simultaneously with the L-1 petition at the U.S. Immigration Service Center.

IMPORTANT: In case of a change of status, it is urgent to ensure that a valid L-1 visa is available for exit and re-entry in any case (see consular procedures). Background: The USCIS only issues the approval on the L-1 status, but not the US visa (in the passport). These entries are made exclusively by the U.S. consulates abroad.

So the change of status is NOT the same as visa. If you leave the United States and re-enter without a valid visa, you will be denied entry.

In contrast to other non-immigrant visas, the application is in principle also possible in countries bordering the USA, such as Mexico or Canada, at the US consulates there.

Otherwise, the application is usually made at the domestic U.S. consulate.

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